| POLITICS |Politis



When Nikos Christodoulides was in the process of getting elected – in the way he was getting elected – to the highest office, the question many people asked was whether the country was entering a new cycle, a renewal, where the apolitical – the art of speaking without claiming any particular position – would be the new norm. The answer became evident in part through the internal party politics of DISY [Democratic Rally], when one by one party members – burdened by the questioning of the ‘old’ – left, making room for the new generation. The duo that was formed, the dialogue that developed, but above all the coverage that the election [for the party leadership] received, confirmed that it was image that reigned supreme. It simultaneously highlighted the notion of unity as a core element of political rhetoric, one which did not require positions to be laid out or common understanding to be reached. It was propounded as a political position rather than a political intention.

Annita Demetriou: “Adversary” or just another Nikos Christodoulides?

Annita Demetriou’s statement after the National Council meeting was indicative of the new state of affairs. After stating that any developments in relation to the Cyprus problem should be dealt with collectively, she expressed DISY’s support for a more active EU role, noting the need to make use of diplomatic means and to denounce Turkey’s illegal actions. She did not say what these developments would be and how they should be dealt with. Nor did she explain how a more active EU role would be achieved or in what way the denouncing of Turkey’s illegal actions would lead to a different outcome than the one we have had so far. Just as she had not previously said anything about any choices or actions that broke with the President’s election commitments and with statements by ministers which, if nothing else, raised questions. The first – and to date only – substantive political statement made after the elections came from the former party president [Averof Neophytou], when he criticised statements made by Makis Keravnos, which, he said, went beyond his role as finance minister. Reminding everyone that DISY is in the opposition, although primarily it is in politics. At all other times, DISY and its new president were busy calling for unity and affirming the support they would offer the government.

Obviously the party and its new leadership need time to find their footing, since the circumstances (faced with a government whose President and several members come from within its own ranks) are peculiar and strange. But what we have been witnessing from DISY for the past month is the complete depoliticisation of the party. A party absent from public debate. Absent from the checks on the executive. No political position has been put forward, no political proposal has been tabled. We see the absence of a political stigma, of a clear identity (which after the elections had been highlighted by members of the party as one of the main causes of defeat) getting bigger, with the cumbersome and vague appeal to unity overshadowing all else.

But apart from being the safest way to ensure that nothing progresses, the appeal to unity is also creating a setting that does not allow for political discourse. For the articulation and contestation of positions. Does DISY consider it feasible for the EU to be more actively involved and realistic for member states to change their stance on issues concerning Turkey in order to facilitate efforts for a resumption of talks? If so, why has it not been achieved this entire time? Does DISY and its new president agree with the selection of professed anti-federalists in the Cabinet, one even in the Defence Ministry? Do they agree with the new Education Minister’s position on an enhanced role for the Church in schools? What is the new leadership’s view on [Sotiris] Sampson’s appeal for the party’s return to the ‘fatherland-religion-family’ triad? Does it believe in liberalism or in a closed club of Christianity? What does it stand for on social issues? How does it perceive the issues of corruption? What does it believe in, what are its political goals? For unity to have substance it must be based on positions. A clear political philosophy. So do politics.

There is no doubt that Annita was helped by the image she built – a consensual image. Perhaps (like Nikos Christodoulides) she was also helped by comparisons with Averof Neophytou at a time when society, or a large portion of it, seems to be averse to conflict, as well as politics. But abstaining from conflict does not mean abstaining from political positions. People may hate politics, but at the same time they demand solutions.

Over the next five years the new government will be called upon to deal with specific existing problems. And DISY will have to take a stand on them. As the president of the largest party, she will no longer be able to continue politicking by simply appealing to unity. Or by maintaining a nice image. She will be forced to assume positions on matters, either by putting forward unpopular positions, possibly at a political cost, or by bearing the burden of government decisions that she did not oppose. If she does not realise that a pretty wrapping cannot conceal the content forever, that even in the current state of affairs political positions are needed – they are assumed or allocated whether or not positions are taken – she will soon be in for a surprise. Mistakes in politics (as Averof might have suggested to her) can be disastrous. But political non-existence can be just as disastrous. Making DISY irrelevant. And herself expendable.


Antonis Polydorou studied Political Sciences and Sociology at the University of Essex and completed his Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Bath. He has contributed in a number of studies as an associate with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the European Institute of Cyprus, mainly on European Union foreign policy and security issues and the rise of the far-right movement in Europe. For the past 10 years he has been a columnist at the newspaper Politis.

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